Adam Williams – Geog 5161 1 Ethnography and Narrative Observation Greek: ethno- meaning race, people -graphia meaning writing or representation Creswell (2009, 13) defines ethnography as ‘a strategy of inquiry in which the researcher studies an intact cultural group in a natural setting over a prolonged period of time by collecting, primarily, observational and interview data. The research process is flexible and typically evolves contextually in response to the lived realities encountered in the field setting.’ (LeCompte & Schensul, 1999) Ethnography is a fundamentally qualitative research tool. The most basic scenario for conducting ethnography involves: 1. Choosing a place for investigation. ‘Place’ can be more than a physical location. 2. Asking a research question. 3. Finding respondents. 4. Recording data. Ethnography often includes: Direct observation of behavior—participant observation. Interviews, conversations, socializing Historical research, genealogical histories, mythologies Consultants, informants, friends Extended time ‘in the field’ Narrative construction Ethics: Ethnography has roots in imperialism, with formal and historical connections to travel writing and colonial reports. It tends to be ‘extractive,’ treating people as having situated knowledge that the ethnographer attempts to glean from immersion in their locale. Critical ethnography can be considered as a perspective that challenges these problems. It’s also important to consider: virtues – generosity, humanity, honesty skills – observation, precision, construction of self—objectivity, subjectivity Theories associated with ethnography: Anthony Giddens advanced structuration theory in 1984. It is a way of studying how structure and agency are the same: cultural structures are never finished, and people’s everyday behavior influences culture, which in turn continues to alter itself. Can ethnography be post-structural? Jacques Derrida has argued that any theory of the social is also a theory of writing. Ethnography has a written component that is interpretive. Constructivism defines human knowledge as a process of learning by doing and being. Ethnographers bring their own history, background and systems of perception to the field. Culture and experience may be considered in relativist terms—truth and reality are not absolutes, but are influenced by one’s life, experience, society, etc. Writing: Ethnography is often used as a way of retelling participants’ stories. Structural devices can be employed, such as plot, setting, activities, climax, denouement, etc. Exploring a literature background and history can be helpful tools for building the research questions that promote critical ethnography. Ethnography is also a narrative of self. One way to address this is by the inclusion of statements detailing the researcher’s past experiences. Exploring connections between the researcher and the participants and research sites can be another way to enrich the narrative-of-self component of ethnography. One seminal example of this is Clifford Geertz’s ‘Deep Play: Notes on a Balinese Cockfight.’ Importance of travel: Is ethnography most successful when it places the researcher outside his or her ‘home turf’ ? Adam Williams – Geog 5161 3 Sources that outline or analyze ethnographic methods: Brown, Stephen and Dobrin, Sidney. 2004. Ethnography Unbound: From Theory Shock to Critical Praxis. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Cloke, Paul et al. 2004. Practising Human Geography. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Clough, Patricia. 1998. The Ends of Ethnography. New York, NY: Peter Lang. Creswell, John. 2009. Research Design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Creswell, John. 2007. Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Denzin, Norman. 1997. Interpretive Ethnography: Ethnographic Practices for the 21st Century. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Geertz, Clifford. 1973. The interpretation of cultures: Selected essays. New York, NY: Basic Books. Hay, Iain. 2005. Qualitative Research Methods in Human Geography. Melbourne, AU: Oxford University Press. Mauss, Marcel. 1967. Manual of Ethnography. France: Durkheim Press. Machin, David. 2002. Ethnographic research for media studies. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Montello, Daniel and Sutton, Paul. 2006. An Introduction to Scientific Research Methods in Geography. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Troman, Geoff, Jeffrey, Bob, and Walford, Geoffrey, eds. 2005. Methodological issues and practices in ethnography. Oxford, UK: Elsevier Ltd.